Credit: Peter Jemmett/Wikimedia

Black Friday fails to deliver for retailers

Like-for-like sales were down 0.4% in November.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 04 Jan 2016

As Black Friday has swept the nation in the last couple of years, some retailers have expressed concern about the American ‘consumer holiday’s’ impact on margins. By slashing prices at the end of November, shops risked missing out on the lucrative profits they are used to accruing in the festive season.

But it seems this year’s discount frenzy didn’t do all that much for sales figures either. Non-food sales in the UK were up by 3.5% in November, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), but total retail sales were up by just 0.7%. That’s less than the three-month average of 2% and the 12-month average of 1.7%, suggesting Black Friday didn’t deliver a much-needed bump for Britain’s shops.

‘November’s relatively flat sales figures are a reality check for the retail sector with consumers holding off for a Black Friday bargain pitted against retailers determined to hold onto their hard-earned margins,’ said David McCorquodale, KPMG’s head of retail.

‘The result was that, despite the hype around Black Friday, there was minimal loosening of the family purse strings compared to last year and retailers, facing significant cost increases next year, will be striving to wean UK shoppers off the discounting drug.’

Black Friday wasn’t a total dud though. Shoppers may have shunned the high street, avoiding the carnage of last year, but they were busy tapping away at their phones and computers snapping up bargains over the internet. Online non-food sales were up 11.8% on last year.

That’s slower growth than 2014’s 12% but still a decent step up from last year. Online represented almost a quarter of all non-food sales in the month (22.4%), its highest level since the BRC’s records began (in 2012, admittedly).

‘Retailers worked hard to offer attractive targeted Black Friday promotions, which were often extended across several days, as well as enhancing the customer experience by improving website performance, offering user-friendly apps and improving order delivery services,’ said BRC chief exec Helen Dickinson. ‘Customers had access to an array of offers, with many retailers personalising their website offerings such as granting loyal customers early access to sales.’

Replicating last year’s Black Friday bounce was never going to be easy so it’s perhaps unsurprising that sales haven’t soared by quite so much this time around. Those retailers who kept their powder dry by avoiding massive price cuts might be pleasantly surprised when they come to look at their bottom line in January.

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